Richard Tuttle I don’t know. The Weave of Textile Language. Tate Modern

Richard Tuttle
I don’t know. The Weave of Textile Language.
Tate Modern

The exhibit that occupies the Turbine Hall of the Tate Modern is a 40 ft. long sculpture that the American artist Richard Tuttle created. For the last 2 years the Turbine Hall has been empty space but now it is in use again for site-specific art. Now the space is filled with a vast suspended object floating in the sky. For this work Tuttle used a plywood frame and weaved over 25,000 square meters of fabric around it and the way the fabric flows is quite beautiful. The sculpture is the largest Tuttle has made to date (2014). It forms no shape but could be a plane or a bird. The Two huge wings take over the grey and plain space; the orange and red fabric fills the space with colour. These colours are similar to a Mexican sombrero, and the small mirrors sewn into the fabric reflect light around the sculpture causing the sculpture to change when the light changes. All of which is a welcome contrast to the winter weather outside.

Tuttle is the first North American to be invited to create a large 3D sculpture in the Turbine hall. Tuttle’s work is post minimalist in the sense of traditional American art; the colours used by him are similar to those found in the work of artist Jackson Pollock. Currently Tuttle has a retrospective of his work at the Whitechapel gallery. In this exhibition there are many more types of small sculptures for which he is best known. Compared to the sculpture at the Tate, the works on display are minimalist and the lighting creates shapes, which are then reflected onto the gallery walls, and by doing this he connects the work to the space.

With this installation at the Tate, it is unclear what Tuttle is trying to say and what it is about. There is no language apart from the textiles, which are weaved around the object and fill the space , making it uninspiring.

The title of the exhibition is ‘I don’t know . The wave of the textile language’ Why is it called this when there is no textile language? The only language is the size of the sculpture and how it connects to the viewer’s especially when they are underneath it. On my viewing I was initially bowled over by the installation but after a few minutes it left no lasting impression.

I dare say that there will be many more installations in the Turbine hall, but hopefully they are not as forgettable. The Tate Modern should fill the space with bold sculptures from new artists from all around the world. The Turbine Hall needs artwork which complements the space not just hang above it. Tuttle’s work was an ‘easy fix’ for the institution because he is a well know artist with a big following and would get people through the door to see it. Hopefully the Tate’s commercial interest with their new sponsors the Car Giant Hyudai is not making them to play safe but so far it looks like they are.


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